Green Wrapping Ideas for the Holidays and Beyond

How to save paper, and money, every time to you give a gift.

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Gift paper sales have become a big business, with annual sales of $2.6 billion dollars, according to Earth911, an environmental services company. But there are frugal and environmental reasons to conserve and recycle wrapping paper. The potential for financial and environmental savings are huge, according to the Sierra Club. For example, if every household wrapped just three presents with cloth or recycled paper—instead of new gift paper—the amount of saved paper could be spread over 45,000 football fields, the Sierra Club reports.

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Here are strategies for using less packaging during the holidays:

Preservation

Gift-opening rituals can be elevated to a money-saving art form. By carefully removing tape, ribbons and bows, it’s possible to save wrapping paper and other decorative trimmings for future uses. Boxes, tissue paper and gift bags can last through several rounds of gift exchanges.

Cloth

With ribbons, bows and glitter pens, old t-shirts and other scraps of cloth can be fashioned into creative wrappings. Fabric stores sell large bolts of cloth at steep discounts. Look for the clearance section, and use the fabric to make elegant wrappings. Add an eco-friendly note with practical suggestions for re-using the cloth, such as dusting, car-washing or drying dishes. Clothing accessories such as scarves, bandanas and shawls can be used to wrap presents, according to the Sierra Club. After the holidays, fashion items can be reclaimed for garments and style. (See also 36 Green Gift Wrapping Ideas)

Table goods

The dining room and kitchen contain several sources of gift-wrapping material, including dish cloths, fabric napkins and placemats. Unconventional wrappings can be laundered and pressed back into table service or kitchen duties.

Printed words

Newspapers, magazines, junk mail and weekly store flyers can serve as festive and sturdy wrapping paper. Outdated calendars, maps, discarded letterhead stationary and old posters are also ideal for wrapping presents.

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DIY gift paper

Children’s art projects, discarded sheet music and old notebook pages can be used to wrap gifts. Even store bags, featuring logos, graphics and other designs, can be folded, cut and taped around gift boxes. Get ideas and instructions from craft magazines, websites and other sources, which feature do-it-yourself projects and instructions for the holidays, including homemade wrapping paper.

Containers

Dollars stores and bargain sections of most discount chains are filled with re-usable, low-cost containers that are ideal for gifts. With ribbons and bows, tins, canisters, bowls, covered dishes and other vessels can replace traditional gift boxes and decorative paper.

Envelope

Avoid paper and boxes by giving concert tickets, restaurants gift certificates, club memberships or gift cards. Gifts of experience—such as ballet tickets or a meal—don't require packaging and can be slipped into a reusable envelope.

Sharon Harvey-Rosenberg is a special financial news contributor for Wise Bread. She is the author of "Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money” and a contributing author to ”10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget.”